Beginning and Endpapers

Golden Book endpaper

When I was looking though my books from childhood, this image from the endpapers for The Golden Book of Children’s Literature, pulled me in again, just like it did when I was young. People who live to read (can you find them all?) is the world this book invites us into. And that got me thinking about the special place endpapers hold in books.

Endpapers are the opening and closing of a book. They can be as simple as a well-chosen tint of colored paper stock to set the mood, and palette of a story, or they can provide another surface for the illustrator to use in their storytelling. I like including illustrated endpapers in my books. In fact, when I was hoping to win my first picture book illustration contract, for BUZZ by Janet Wong, I included a description of the endpapers in my initial notes to the editor. She told me later that that helped convince her that I was the right artist for the job.

Some endpapers are purely decorative, yet still reflect the book’s theme, as in Maud and Miska Petersham‘s charming endpapers for The Poppy Seed Cakes, by Margery Clark.

The Poppy Seed Cakes-Petersham

And Eric Carle‘s endpapers for Bill Martin, Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (“I see a red bird looking at me.”)

Brown Bear-Carle

Others serve to book-end a story, as in this array of “photos” from Marla Frazee‘s A Couple of Boys Have The Best Week Ever.

Best Week Ever-Frazee

Best Week Ever-Frazee 2

I took this approach for my own Best Best Friends, which takes place during business hours at a preschool. The cubbies are full when everyone arrives,

BBFfirstendpaper

and empty (almost) after they leave.

BBFlastendpapers

Endpapers can also be a handy place to put interesting but extemporaneous information that could otherwise bog down the story, as in Virginia Lee Burton‘s Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel,

Mike Mulligan-Burton

plus extra funny stuff, like in Laurie Keller‘s The Scrambled States of America Talent Show.

Scrambled States Talent Show-Keller

Chris Raschka and Vladimir Radunsky instruct you on proper dining etiquette in their book, Table Manners, and use the endpapers to advertize the advantages of observance, before and after.

Table Manners-Raschka Radunsky 1

Table Manners-Raschka Radunsky 2

Some illustrators use the endpapers to extend the story to it’s fullest possible extent. In David Small‘s illustrations for Sarah Stewart‘s The Friend, they function as prelude, setting up the scene of the lonely little girl in the big house,

The Friend-Small

and as epilogue.

The Friend-Small 2

Keith Baker‘s endpapers for Hide and Snake begin and end the game where we have to find the snake hiding amidst the other patterns.

Hide & Snake-Baker 3

The colored bands continue to the title page,

Hide & Snake-Baker 1 copy

and carry through to the last page where we see that the turquoise line that reads as the ground throughout the book is actually toothpaste. Ha, fooled again!

Hide & Snake-Baker 3

And as if the rest of the book isn’t beautiful enough, Peter Sís‘s exquisite endpapers for The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin could function as separate, additional picture books in and of themselves. I mean really.

Tree of Life-Sis 1

Tree of Life-Sis 2

Unfortunately, endpapers are often left out of later editions of books if they go to paperback or board book formats. While these editions are more affordable than hard cover, it’s a shame that the endpapers are seen as expendable. It’s like getting a hamburger without the bun.

Nevertheless, when you set out to illustrate a picture book, keep the endpapers in mind as part of the whole package. Who knows, it might even get you a book contract some day.

3 responses to “Beginning and Endpapers

  1. I love this post! Thanks so much for showcasing these beautiful endpapers. For me, they’ve always been an important part of my PB reading exerperience.

  2. Never thought about all the buns I missed noticing when I bought books but will definitely start now. Thanks for sharing!🙂

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